Hartlepool council insists it has ‘no alternative’ but to increase council tax again

The councils finance and policy committee discussed council tax at Hartlepool Civic Centre.
The councils finance and policy committee discussed council tax at Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Residents in Hartlepool look set to be hit with a 4.9% council tax rise.

Councillors have backed plans for council tax to rise by 4.9% from April - blaming the rise on government cuts and the new social care precept.
It follows an increase of 3.9% a year ago.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher insists the council was left with no alternative but to increase council tax.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher insists the council was left with no alternative but to increase council tax.

Hartlepool Borough Council says it will see a cut in government grant of almost £10million over the next three years.

Of the 4.9% council tax increase, 3% is for the Government’s social care precept, helping to pay towards the increasing social care costs due to people living longer.

A report to a meeting of the council’s finance and policy committee showed that, between the 2017/18 and 2019/20 financial years, Hartlepool will see a further cut in government grant of about £10million.

Figures in the report also showed that, by 2019/20, the council will have seen its government funding cut by £45million – over two-thirds – since austerity cuts were first introduced in 2010/11.

Following a freeze on council tax for five years up to 2016, we are now left with no alternative but to increase it

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher

The council says the council tax increase is the only option.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the council’s finance and policy committee, and leader of the council, said: “When you consider the scale of the government cuts, it does make it very challenging to achieve on our ambition for the town and to deliver on the wide range of services to the people of our town and beyond.

“In essence, the Government is simply shifting the burden of paying for services from central government to local taxpayers, which is grossly unfair. The Government should be taking responsibility and providing additional funding, rather than rely on increasing council tax, which is simply just shifting the burden.”

The proposed increase needs to be agreed by councillors at a meeting of the full council next month.

It would result in the large majority of households – 73% in Bands A and B – facing an increase of 93p and £1.08 per week respectively.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Following a freeze on council tax for five years up to 2016, we are now left with no alternative but to increase it.

“The budget proposals including the tax increase will enable us to protect the vast majority of front-line services and jobs and to invest in the town’s future by supporting a range of regeneration projects. At the same time, we will be able to protect the most vulnerable people in the town, particularly the elderly.”